Here’s a tip I’ve never used: I understand you can learn a great deal about girldom by reading Pride and Prejudice, and I won a copy, but I have never read it. I tried. It was given to me by a girl with a little note inside that read: What is in this book is the heart of a woman. I am sure the heart of a woman is pure and lovely, but the first chapter of said heart is hopelessly boring. Nobody dies at all. I keep the book on my shelf because girls come into my room, sit on my couch, and eye the books on the adjacent shelf. You have a copy of Pride and Prejudice, the exclaim in a gentle sigh and smile. Yes, I say. Yes, I do.
Interestingly enough, I bring this up because my wife hates Jane Austen. She finds the lifestyle of the typical characters to be quite dull. I myself have yet to read any of her works, though I saw the recent Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley in it. My guess is that it’s difficult to relate to noble culture, my wife and I both growing up blue-collar. My friend Mark on the other hand, is quite a fan of Austen and actually met his wife through that mutual appreciation! What a striking contrast to our author in this case.
One of my favorite pop songs has always been Bruce Springsteen’s Secret Garden. I’ve always really loved that song, but couldn’t quite put my finger on why.
She’ll let you in her house
If you come knockin’ late at night
She’ll let you in her mouth
If the words you say are right
If you pay the price
She’ll let you deep inside
But there’s a secret garden she hides.She’ll lead you down a path
There’ll be tenderness in the air
She’ll let you come just far enough
So you know she’s really there
She’ll look at you and smile
And her eyes will say
She’s got a secret garden
Where everything you want
Where everything you need
Will always stay
A million miles away
John Eldridge comments in Wild at Heart:
It’s a deep lie wedded to a deep truth. Eve IS a garden of delight (Song 4:16). But she’s not everything you want, everything you need-not even close. Of course it will stay a million miles away. You can’t get there from here because it’s not there. It’s not there.
Oddly enough, that turned out to be the most meaningful passage in the whole book for me. I think he hit the nail on the head. It’s once again our longing for God being replaced by the woman. That will never work. I hadn’t thought of the “secret garden” being sex, and I still don’t think it necessarily is. It’s just one of many things wrapped up in the desire for union.
Troubadour poetry reflects a “continual tension between the physical side of love, love shared and enjoyed, and the longing of an unfulfilled love.” Some praise consummated love as the only true love, while others enjoy the “exquisite pain-pleasure of a love which is either impossible to fulfill or is deliberately denied fulfillment.” Whatever direction the poetry goes, the man’s life is dominated by love, and his main object is to win his lady by gaining her favor. Thus, “from his love stem all virtues of this world – valour, courtesy, generosity – summed up in the one word pretz, worth. The man who does not love can never hope to be as accomplished as the lover whose desire spurs him on to new achievements.”
I must say I’ve always been a sucker for the idea of unrequited love. An impossible idealization that transcends our fallen nature. It doesn’t actually exist, but it’s often spoken of in music and art. It is curiously devoid of sex too, at least it’s not articulated. Some have suggested that it’s really a longing for God. I was surprised (though I guess maybe I shouldn’t have been) to find it in spades in the distant past as well.
This footnote caught my attention more than the text this time.
From Reaching for the Invisible God:
Thomas Green, a priest who has spent his life exploring spirituality and has written seven books on prayer, makes an interesting observation. He estimates that about the same proportion of people have a very successful prayer life as have a very successful marriage. Tangibility is not the issue, he says, for tangibility does not ensure the success of human relationships either.
Now human relationships ARE tangible, but that isn’t what makes them successful. You spouse or friend is someone you can see and touch and talk to and hear with your own ears. But human relationships break down all the time. What makes them stick is “fidelity”, that is faith. Faith in the other person even when they fail or hurt you. Love and forgiveness. All of these are invisible things. The Lord has all of these things in abundance toward us. We reflect some of them back to him.